FIFA’s commitment to ensuring fairness and transparency throughout the sport and modernising the football regulatory framework underpins one of the 11 goals set out in the FIFA President’s Vision 2020-2023, the blueprint for making football truly global. In 2021, more progress was achieved in this area.
FIFA Football Tribunal launched
The ongoing reform of the football regulatory framework reached a new milestone when the FIFA Football Tribunal, whose creation was approved at the 71ˢᵗ FIFA Congress, became operational on 1 October 2021. The FIFA Football Tribunal consolidated the previous FIFA decision-making bodies into a single umbrella body to facilitate the resolution of disputes and decisions on regulatory applications within the football regulatory framework.
The FIFA Football Tribunal is divided into three chambers: the Dispute Resolution Chamber, the Players’ Status Chamber and the Agents Chamber.
It is anticipated that the Dispute Resolution Chamber will decide approximately 3,500 disputes per year, while the Players’ Status Chamber will rule on approximately 700 disputes and 6,000 regulatory applications on an annual basis.
The three chambers:
Dispute Resolution Chamber
Players’ Status Chamber
World Football Remission Fund
In August 2021, the United States Department of Justice awarded the FIFA Foundation more than USD 201 million in compensation for the losses suffered by FIFA, Concacaf and CONMEBOL as victims of football corruption schemes. The money, seized from the bank accounts of former officials who were involved in – and prosecuted for – such schemes, was channelled into the newly formed World Football Remission Fund. The fund was established under the auspices of the FIFA Foundation to help finance football-related projects with a positive community impact across the globe.
The fund is intended to have a particular focus on youth and community programmes and amounts will be earmarked for projects within Concacaf and CONMEBOL, given that they suffered significantly as a result of the aforementioned criminal activities. In addition, all projects will be submitted to strict monitoring, auditing and compliance checks to guarantee full transparency and accountability.
“I am delighted to see that money which was illegally siphoned out of football is now coming back to be used for its proper purposes, as it should have been in the first place. Thankfully, we are well past that unfortunate period in history now and it’s great to see significant funding being put at the disposal of the FIFA Foundation, which can positively impact so many people across the football world, especially through youth and community programmes.”
FIFA Diploma in Club Management
In March 2021, FIFA President Gianni Infantino launched the FIFA Diploma in Club Management. The first cohort of the new course numbered 30 participants. These included club executives and former international players from all around the world, who enrolled with the aim of gaining a practical, first-hand insight into the latest industry data, research and trends concerning club management.
“The FIFA Diploma in Club Management is a fantastic and unique initiative, and I congratulate FIFA on leading the way through the introduction of this course, which will help to professionalise the game around the world.”
Nearly 400 people applied to be part of the inaugural course, and among the 30 who were offered places were Fabio Cannavaro, Carlos Bocanegra, Juan Pablo Ángel, Nuno Gomes and Philippe Senderos, as well as club executives like Sérgio Rodrigues, the President of Cruzeiro.
On the first day of classes, an opening address was given by the FIFA President, who not only inspired the participants with some memorable anecdotes, but also urged the first cohort of the diploma to use the course “to protect football” and to gain the knowledge needed “to make the beautiful game truly global”. This was followed by fascinating lectures, including one on global football business models by AC Milan CEO Ivan Gazidis and another on Liverpool FC’s business case by the club’s former CEO, Peter Moore.
After this initial two-day gathering, the participants continued to debate and exchange views with industry experts and leading voices within football in relation to club operations and stadium management, finance, marketing and communications, sporting management and youth academies, and governance and legal matters, as well as leadership and negotiation. As part of the course’s curriculum, the participants were also asked to devise a strategic plan for their respective clubs.
Global Integrity Programme
In March 2021, in collaboration with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), FIFA launched the Global Integrity Programme. The initiative is aimed at providing all 211 FIFA member associations with enhanced knowledge and tools to prevent match manipulation.
Designed to improve education and build integrity capacity by sharing advanced know-how and resources with integrity officers, the programme also reflects the UNODC’s objective of supporting governments and sports organisations in their efforts to safeguard sport from corruption and crime.
FIFA’s Global Integrity Programme is in line with the FIFA President’s Vision 2020-2023: Making Football Truly Global, which reaffirms FIFA’s commitment to fighting match manipulation by implementing integrity initiatives and reporting mechanisms, as well as setting up dedicated educational programmes. As part of its ongoing integrity initiatives, FIFA signed a memorandum of understanding with the UNODC in September 2020, through which the two institutions agreed to step up their cooperation to address the threats posed by crime to sport.
“Match-fixing is an issue that is very real and threatens the integrity and credibility of football in many countries around the world. Working in close collaboration with experts at the UNODC and alongside other ongoing efforts that FIFA is taking, the FIFA Global Integrity Programme is another important step by FIFA to protect the integrity of football and will play an important role in educating and building capacity within member associations to help fight match-fixing at a local level.”
Ten-year global transfer report
In August 2021, FIFA published a report on international transfers in the men’s game during the 2011-2020 period, the most comprehensive review of transfers across the globe ever produced.
The report confirmed that transfer-market activity increased steadily over the decade in question. From 11,890 transfers conducted in 2011 to a peak of 18,079 in 2019, a total of 133,225 international transfers and loans of professional players took place, while USD 48.5 billion was spent on
transfer fees during the period.
The transfers involved 66,789 players and 8,264 clubs across 200 FIFA member associations, thus underlining football’s role in the global economy. Brazilian nationals moving to foreign clubs topped the list with 15,128 transfers, followed by Argentinian (7,444), British (5,523), French (5,027) and Colombian (4,287) footballers.
Ten years of international transfers
Commentary on the RSTP
In November 2021, FIFA released the second edition of the Commentary on the Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players (RSTP). First published in 2007, this has become a crucial document to support member associations, clubs, players, leagues and football legal experts and ensure that the RSTP are applied consistently across the global football community.
To mark the publication, FIFA held a workshop, with two panel discussions and the participation of Gianni Infantino, the FIFA President, and Mario Monti, the European Union Commissioner for Competition at the time of the RSTP’s adoption in 2001.
FIFA published the second (2021) edition of its Legal Handbook in September. The updated edition collated the latest FIFA regulations, statutory documents and relevant circulars related to legal, governance and regulatory matters in football, making them all easily accessible in one place.
As well as the FIFA Statutes, the FIFA Legal Handbook features numerous other key FIFA regulatory and statutory codes. These include the FIFA Governance Regulations, Disciplinary Code, Code of Ethics and Anti-Doping Regulations, as well as the latest FIFA regulations governing the status and transfer of players, working with intermediaries, club licensing, stadium safety and security, and the Forward Programme, among others.
Football Law Annual Review
The third edition of the FIFA Football Law Annual Review was held on 22 and 23 March 2021. Owing to the restrictions in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it was a special online event streamed on FIFA.com. A detailed account of the Legal & Compliance Division (including cases and applications handled by the different units) was given, and round-table discussions and presentations were held on football legal topics.
More than 500 people participated over the course of the two-day event. All presentations were given in English, with simultaneous interpreting into Spanish and French.
Second edition of Diploma in Football Law launched
Following the success of the first programme, delivered between 2020 and 2021, FIFA launched registrations for the second edition of its Diploma in Football Law, which will once again be held in collaboration with the International Centre for Sports Studies (CIES).
In line with the FIFA President’s Vision 2020-2023 of making football truly global, the FIFA Diploma in Football Law is aimed at providing sports legal executives working at FIFA member associations, leagues, clubs, players’ unions and private practices from all around the globe with a working knowledge of the latest and most relevant aspects in the legal field.
The 2022/23 edition of the diploma will comprise virtual and in-person lessons over the course of 13 months, during which renowned football experts, arbitrators and lawyers will offer a full array of theoretical and practical insight.
FIFA Executive Programme in Sports Arbitration
Following the successful delivery of the inaugural edition in 2021, it was also announced that the FIFA Executive Programme in Sports Arbitration would return for its second edition in 2022.
The programme provides a hands-on approach to all aspects related to proceedings before the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS). FIFA is the international federation with the longest-standing and most extensive experience of CAS proceedings, having been involved in thousands of such cases covering the whole spectrum of legal disputes (disciplinary, anti-doping, contractual, etc.).
The FIFA Executive Programme in Sports Arbitration offers a practical, personalised learning methodology, backed up by theory and research, which focuses primarily on the mechanics of proceedings before CAS as well as exploring arbitration involving other sports bodies.
The programme combines online classes and on-site sessions, including at the FIFA office in Paris and at FIFA’s headquarters in Zurich.
Executive Programme in Anti‑Doping delivered
Announced in 2020, the first edition of the programme was delivered between February and July 2021. It provided an in-depth analysis of the main regulatory, institutional and scientific aspects of anti-doping in sport.
Since the establishment of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) back in 1999, the fight against doping in sport has evolved dramatically. The interaction between the WADA Code, sports governing bodies’ regulations and national legislation has led to considerable complexity in this field.
While the inaugural FIFA Executive Programme in Anti-Doping mainly focused on the legal and institutional aspects of the anti-doping landscape, a basic overview of the most relevant scientific aspects of this complex phenomenon was also provided.
Football Law Talks
Back in January 2021, FIFA launched the Football Law Talks, a series of webinars focused on topical legal issues within the game. Tailored towards lawyers with an interest in sports law and in-house legal counsels at international or national associations, clubs, leagues and player unions, the various talks held over the course of the year were delivered by experts and practitioners from specific legal fields.
Each session was live-streamed on FIFA.com, with simultaneous interpreting into Spanish and French, and brought together football law professionals from around the world, providing the platform for comprehensive discussion and Q&A sessions.
In line with its commitment to promoting greater transparency in its regulatory operations, FIFA published its first Commentary on the Rules Governing Eligibility to Play for Representative Teams in January.
The primary objective of the commentary was to explain the rules concerning players’ eligibility to play for a national team. Its publication was prompted by a wholesale modernisation of the rules governing players’ eligibility (adopted by the FIFA Congress in 2020 and the first such revamp since 2008), as well as the increase in the number of requests submitted to FIFA and the need to provide legal certainty to football stakeholders.
The commentary was accompanied by the publication of the first-ever Guide to Submitting a Request for Eligibility or Change of Association, presenting a complete overview of the legal procedure and documents required for any eligibility or change-of-association request submitted to FIFA.
Disciplinary and ethics
The second annual report on the activities of FIFA’s independent judicial bodies – the Disciplinary, Appeal and Ethics Committees – was published in September. The report provided detailed statistics on the more than 1,000 cases handled by the judicial bodies over the 2020-21 season.
Of this total, 856 cases related to the Disciplinary Committee, which covered a very broad range of topics, including purely football competition matters, the protection of minors, third-party ownership, match-fixing, doping and the enforcement of decisions passed by other judicial bodies.
Players’ Status Department
In October 2021, the second report on the activities of FIFA’s Players’ Status Department (PSD) was published, covering the period from 1 July 2020 to 30 June 2021. The report revealed that while international transfers decreased during that period, mainly owing to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the PSD nevertheless dealt with a total of 9,785 cases, applications and enquiries – an all-time high.
This growth was especially driven by a major increase in dispute resolution cases (3,986, +22.5%), while registration and eligibility cases decreased slightly (5,799, -7.7%) due largely to the reduction in the number of applications for the registration of minors (-32.7%).
Another highlight of the 2020/21 season was the introduction of various important amendments to the RSTP and the Rules Governing the Procedures of the Players’ Status Committee and the Dispute Resolution Chamber.
In September 2021, the Anti-Doping Report 2020-21, which covers FIFA’s efforts in the area from 1 July 2020 to 30 June 2021, was published.
While the COVID-19 pandemic had a significant impact on the planning and implementation of FIFA’s anti-doping programme, with tournaments postponed and matches cancelled during the period covered by the report, a total of 354 players were subject to doping control tests across five FIFA-organised competitions during that time.
The total number of samples collected as part of those tests was 602 (322 in competition and 280 out of competition), consisting of 357 urine samples, 165 blood samples and 80 blood-passport samples.
Out of the 602 samples collected, only one of them resulted in an atypical finding. Further investigation into the concentration of the prohibited substance found in this sample pointed to the conclusion that meat contamination had most likely been the source of the atypical finding.
Following the WADA guidelines regarding this scenario, it was decided not to put forward this finding as an adverse analytical sample and to close the case accordingly.